It was the second Florida Pro. Jake Wright and I hadn’t spent much time preparing with the Navarre tournament the weekend before. We picked two spots we had seen schools the last time we were out and launched with a hope. We launched 29th from Bay Point Marina at 5:30 a.m. and the race was on for spot No. 1.
The issue with the race: My boat tops at 38 MPH and everyone else’s is between 40 and 85MPH. On the way to the first spot, we were passed by six or seven boats, but didn’t think anything about it until we arrived at spot one to find another tournament boat already posted up on it. We kept running and headed to spot number 2; spot number 2 had 2 schools of reds with anywhere from 15 to 30 reds on them. We dropped the trolling motor and began creeping the shoreline, fan casting and looking for the schools. The water was low, no wind, slick calm, and the reds hadn’t pushed in yet. We pushed the bank for about an hour and decided to move and come back once the water was moving.
We jumped about a mile away and crept the shoreline. I hadn’t been to this spot since March but had usually did well there. I threw a paddle tail and Jake threw a gold spoon. We were searching and looking, trying to find the reds. We worked in and out of cuts, and the shoreline and only saw three small reds and caught five trout. About 9 a.m., we decided to go back to spot 2 and locate the schools if possible.
We pushed the shore and saw a wake heading toward us. We poled down, cast a head of them and waited to feel the thump of a big red. The wake went by the boat, and it was the school of big reds, but we never felt a thump. We watched them move through, looked up, and another tournament boat came around the point heading toward us. Apparently, that boat was pushing the school and had them spooked, so the reds weren’t eating and kept going. We decided to move a little farther down the shoreline to a point that holds and away from the area the other boat already pushed. We crept to and around the point and only saw trout. It was 10 a.m., and we had caught zero reds, and the ones we had seen were spooky. Jake and I decided to run to a guaranteed spot to catch reds, just not always big reds.
We got to the flat that always has reds on it, dropped the trolling motor and began our search. We continued throwing the paddle tail and gold spoon while fan casting and looking for reds. I was anticipating the bite every cast, since this spot always produces for us. I felt a thump, set the hook, a bunch of head shakes, and landed a trout. Cast again, thump, head shakes, trout. This continuous pattern landed us six or seven 16- to 20-inch trout, but didn’t help us for the tournament. Now it was almost noon, no reds in the boat, with a weigh-in at 3 p.m. and we weren’t finding the reds. We decided we needed either chop or murky/muddy water. We made a 2-mile run to a murky bayou.
We pulled onto a short flat that drops off to 6 feet within 50 yards of shore and usually has reds running the drop-off. The second cast on the drop-off, I felt thump, head shakes, and it was coming in easy. Jake asked if it was a red; I told him no, feels like another trout. It got to the boat, turned, rolled, and started running drag; it was a red who hadn’t realized he was hooked yet. I landed the red; he was 25 inches at 5.6 pounds, a good fish. We just needed one more before 3 p.m. We continued to work that flat, Jake hooked up, and a lady fish started jumping. The lady fish threw the bait, the bait hit the water, I see red and his drag started screaming. He asked what happened. I told him the ladyfish spit the bait and a red picked it up. He landed the red at 24.5 inches and 5.32 pounds. We pushed that flat some more, Jake caught a 3-pound red, and we saw a 6-pound red that spooked. It was 1:30 p.m., the wind was blowing 15 to 20 MPH, and the bay was capping. We just went back to weigh-in with the slow bite and the turn of the conditions.
I know statically from last year and this year, we should be top 10 with those 11 pounds. We weighed in 10.92 pounds, which wasn’t bad, but wasn’t great. We came in sixth with first place weighing 14.00 pounds from crooked island. It wasn’t enough to get us a check, but to place top 10 with the field we compete against and the conditions was outstanding.